So Many Shimmies!

Photo from

Photo from

Shimmying seems to be absolutely critical to belly dance, its distinguishing feature. Whenever I picture belly dancing, it’s usually the first thing to come to mind. But there are SO MANY KINDS to learn. (Well, okay, 10. But to a beginner, pretty daunting.) I’m not really sure whether I should be focusing on a particular style of shimmying, or if it’s common for belly dancers to know and be comfortable with every single type.

(The images in this post are all of Maria, one of my favorite contestants on Project Belly Dance, Season 2.)

Here are the types of shimmies I’ve identified so far. The one major thing you need to know about shimmies is that it’s not a shimmy unless you can do it FAST:

1. Egyptian Shimmy The most basic shimmy. All you’re really doing is slightly bending and straightening your legs at the knees. No hip movements involved. This shimmy isn’t really intended to be performed by itself – you’ve got to layer it. “Layering” means doing multiple moves at once. So, really, if you’re going to do the Egyptian shimmy, you really ought to add in some fancy arm work, or undulate your upper body, or shift your hips from front to back or side to side. I think I get the point of this move, but it’s not terribly exciting.

Photo from

Photo from

2. Hip Shimmy In this one, you alternate moving your hips up and down. Hard to layer, unlike the previous shimmy, because once you engage your hips, it’s harder to travel and undulate your body and so forth.

3. Turkish Shimmy / Choo Choo Shimmy This shimmy is LOUD! You alternate your hips up and down like in the hip shimmy, but you’re also on your toes, making very tiny, quick, noisy steps (especially if you’re on a hardwood floor). This a traveling move, meaning you can move across the dance floor with it. It’s pretty hard for me to make this look elegant!

4. Tunisian Shimmy Twist your hips back and front instead of up and down.

Photo by Antonio Genovia

Photo by Antonio Genovia

5. Moroccan Shimmy / Three-quarter Shimmy When I did this one in front of my mom, she burst out laughing. I actually think it’s a pretty cool one, but apparently I’m not very good at it yet, hehe. The Moroccan shimmy involves moving one hip up, down, then out to the side. Then you do the same with the other hip.

6. Algerian Shimmy Like a Moroccan shimmy, with a twist! (Sounds like I’m making a drink order.)

7. African Hip Shimmy Like the Turkish shimmy, but you stick your butt way out there and keep your upper body down. I like this shimmy, but it’s the kind of shimmy I’d probably want to do in moderation during an actual performance.

8. African Upper Body Shimmy The weirdest shimmy I have seen thus far. I just…no. Watch the video for an explanation.

9. Chest Shimmy This entire move is about shaking your boobs. That’s right. Wiggling your breasts back and forth. Apparently there are male belly dancers, and they can do this move, but it’s hard to imagine. I should do some research and make a post about male belly dancers.

10. Shoulder Shimmy Almost seems like the same as the chest shimmy, since your shoulders move in both. It’s just a question of what you’re emphasizing.

So this is the video that taught me most of what I know. The lovely Tiazza demonstrates all of them, even the African Upper Body Shimmy, which… I just can’t. Can’t even.

Shimmying for more than a couple minutes at a time takes a LOT of stamina, which I frankly don’t have at the moment. I think I’ve got the basic idea for most of these shimmies. It’s just that when I watch videos of professional dancers, their movements look so purposeful in a way that I haven’t mastered yet.

It kind of looks like I’m just standing there jiggling. Maybe I could be on a Jello commercial? Come to think of it, I haven’t seen one of those in years.

Countdown to Belly Dance Mastery: 9,991 hours

(One hour down from yesterday. What progress! Hehe. So close to 10 hours, I can almost taste it.)

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